Following her high-concept second LP Electra Heart, told from the point of view of female character archetypes in ‘50s/’60s America, Marina Diamandis (AKA Marina & The Diamonds) took a series of bold steps. She ditched the big name co-writes – sayonara Dr. Luke! - stuffed her faux-gullet with sleeping pills to ensure the titular Electra Heart would doze off for eternity, and strove to create her album.
In doing so, Diamandis’ third long-player, FROOT, is in many ways her finest creation to date.
The lead single and title track, a space-disco belter with ludicrously Chic-indebted basslines, crispy beats and all the unique vocal Marina-isms you could wish for, is a stellar stand-out. You’ve got the nudge-nudge wink-wink juxtaposition of “Happy”, which is both resoundingly uplifting and bulging with despair. “Blue” is giant Top 40 pop begging for a proper single release.
“Gold” is a bizarre piece of lilting SoCal shimmery sunshine; it doesn’t sound like Diamandis particularly, and jars a little with the rest of the tracklist, but in melding Plastic Beach-era Gorillaz with L.A. heat, she’s ensured the cut lives up to its moniker.
Really though, her talent lies in her lyrical proficiency.
Diamandis has always been one for intelligent, curveball lyrics – even when dissecting tried’n’tested pop staples like relationship foibles, she’s managed to warp the viewpoint or inject a fresh take. It’s a talent that stretches all the way back to her first murmurs of noise like “I Am Not A Robot” or “Obsessions”, and on FROOT, it’s showcased to its greatest effect.
Primarily about the maelstrom of battling emotions following a breakup – she’s the ender, laced with a thousand regrets – the record sees Diamandis take that frayed thread of listlessness and conflict, and yanks it until her entire world is unravelled. This is Diamandis laid bare, exploring her own sanity and life from every angle, confused, battered and emotionally drained, but ultimately hopeful. It’s one of the most complex pop albums of recent years, and like any great steamroller mind, she can’t quite contain herself. Rampaging and ramping up with anxious ‘what if’ upon anxious ‘what if’, Diamandis quickly finds herself asking the big questions. Not simply about love anymore, FROOT swiftly becomes an anthology of astute nihilistic, existentialist discussions.
“Immortal” frames Diamandis’ angst against her lovelorn trauma: “I wanna mean something to somebody else feel a significance in the real world,” she sings, lamenting the flash-in-a-pan lifespan against trembling rock-ballad anthemry. “I don't want to be afraid, afraid to die/I just wanna be able to say that I have lived my life/oh, all these things that humans do/to leave behind a little proof.” “Savages” sees her frustrated with humanity’s incessant fuck uppery, “Can’t Pin Me Down” combats the autocorrect mentality of pigeonholing and definition, and she mallets “Better Than That” into your head – “You can do better than that/better than that/better than that…” is that a note-to-self or a word of warning?
“I’m A Ruin” is arguably the centrepiece of the album. Containing all the neon-flicker glamour, the fading elegance, the regret-laced-with-hope tenets and the unfathomably catchy double-tap chorus, it superglues together all the best bits of FROOT into one delicious package.
A lot of the LP is indeed about a particular relationship. It’s a catharsis. As she said in our interview, this is the first time she’s felt content – not happy – and that glimmers through. While she’s aware that she’s brought pain – not just to her former partner, but to herself – she’s assured in her decision, and has flourished in spite of heartache. Over her sonic triptych, she’s mined that vein, and the result is FROOT – not only the first album written, produced and for herself, but also remarkably candid in her fear of death, legacy and memory.
This is Diamandis at her best. It’s almost worrying that she’s got to follow it up at some point.